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Full text of "Lincoln's first message to Congress : message to Congress in special session, July 4, 1861"

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^v^ I3SI 

No. iSg. 

Lincoln's First 

Message to 



Fellow-citizens of the Senate and House 0} Representatives: 
Having been convened on an extraordinary occasion, as author- 
ized by the Constitution, your attention is not called to any ordi- 
nary subject of legislation. 

At the beginning of the present presidential term, four months 
ago, the functions of the Federal Government were found to be 
generally suspended within the several States of South Carolina, 
Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida, excepting 
only those of the Post-ofi&ce Department. 

Within these States all the forts, arsenals, dockyards, custom- 
houses, and the like, including the movable and stationary prop- 
erty in and about them, had been seized, and were held in open 
hostility to this government, excepting only Forts Pickens, Taylor, 
and Jeflferson, on and near the Florida coast, and Fort Sumter 
in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The forts thus seized 
had been put in improved condition, new ones had been built, 
and armed forces had been organized, and were organizing, all 
avowedly with the same hostile purpose. 

The forts remaining in the possession of the Federal Government 
in and near these States were either besieged or menaced by 
warhke preparations, and especially Fort Sumter was nearly sur- 
rounded by well-protected hostile batteries, with guns equal in 
quality to the best of its own, and outnumbering the latter as per- 
haps ten to one. A disproportionate share of the Federal muskets 


and rifles had somehow found their way into these States, and had 
been seized to be used against the government; Accumulations of 
the public revenue lying within them had been seized for the same 
object. The navy was scattered in distant seas, leaving but a very 
small part of it within the immediate reach of the government. 
Officers of the Federal army and navy had resigned in great num- 
bers; and of those resigning a large proportion had taken up arms 
against the government. Simultaneously, and in connection with 
all this, the purpose to sever the Federal Union was openly 
avowed. In accordance with this purpose, an ordinance had 
been adopted in each of these States, declaring the States respec- 
tively to be separated from the National Union. A formula for 
instituting a combined government of these States had been 
promulgated; and this illegal organization, in the character of 
confederate States, was already invoking recognition, aid, and 
inten-ention from foreign powers. 

Finding this condition of things, and believing it to be an imper- 
ative duty upon the incoming executive to prevent, if possible, the 
consummation of such attempt to destroy the Federal Union, a 
choice of means to that end became indispensable. This choice 
was made and was declared in the inaugural address. The policy 
chosen looked to the exhaustion of all peaceful measures before a 
resort to any stronger ones. It sought only to hold the public 
places and property not already wrested from the government, 
and to collect the revenue, relying for the rest on time, discussion, 
and the ballot-box. It promised a continuance of the mails, at 
government expense, to the very people who were resisting the 
government; and it gave repeated pledges against any disturb- 
ance to any of the people, or any of their rights. Of all that 
which a President might constitutionally and justifiably do in 
such a case, everything was forborne without which it was be- 
lieved possible to keep the government on foot. 

On the 5th of March (the present incumbent's first full day in 
office), a letter of Major Anderson, commanding at Fort Sumter, 
written on the 28th of February and received at the War Depart- 
ment on the 4th of March, was by that department placed in his 
hands. This letter expressed the professional opinion of the 
writer that reinforcements could not be thrown into that fort 
within the time for his relief rendered necessary by the limited 
supply of provisions, and with a view of holding possession of the 
same, Avith a force of less than twenty thousand good and well 

disciplined men. This opinion was concurred in by all the oflfi- 
cers of his command, and their memoranda on the subject were 
made inclosures of Major Anderson's letter. The whole was 
immediately laid before Lieutenant-General Scott, who at once 
concurred with Major Anderson in opinion. On reflection, 
however, he took full time, consulting with other officers, both of 
the army and the navy, and at the eud of four days came reluct- 
antly but decidedly to the same conclusion as before. He also 
stated at the same time that no such sufficient force was then 
at the control of the government, or could be raised and b -ought 
to the ground within the time when the provisions in the fort 
would be exhausted. In a purely military point of view, this re- 
duced the duty of the administration in the case to the mere 
matter of getting the garrison safely out of the fort. 

It was believed, however, that to so abandon that position, under 
the circumstances, would be utterly ruinous; that the necessity 
under which it was to be done would not be fully understood; that 
by many it would be construed as a part of a voluntary policy; 
that at home it would discourage the friends of the Union, em- 
bolden its adversaries, and go far to insure to the latter a recog- 
nition abroad; that, in fact, it would be our national destruction 
consummated. This could not be allowed. Star\'ation was not 
yet upon the garrison, and ere it would be reached Fort Pickens 
might be reinforced. This last would be a clear indication of 
policy, and would better enable the country to accept the evacua- 
tion of Fort Sumter as a military necessity. An order was at 
once directed to be sent for the landing of the troops from the 
steamship Brooklyn into Fort Pickens. This order could not go 
by land, but must take the longer and slower route by sea. The 
first return news from the order was received just one week before 
the fall of Fort Sumter. The news itself was that the officer 
commanding the Sabine, to which vessel the troops had been 
transferred from the Brooklyn, acting upon some qtiasi armis- 
tice of the late administration (and of the existence of which 
the present administration, up to the time the order was de- 
spatched, had only too vague and uncertain rumors to fix atten- 
tion), had refused to land the troops. To now reinforce Fort 
Pickens before a crisis would be reached at Fort Sumter was im- 
possible — rendered so by the near exhaustion of provisions in the 
latter-named fort. In precaution against such a conjecture, the 
government had, a few days before, commenced preparing an 


expedition as well adapted as might be to relieve Fort Sumter, 
which expedition was intended to be ultimately used, or not. 
according to circumstances. The strongest anticipated case for 
using it was now presented, and it was resolved to send it forward. 
As had been intended in this contingency, it was also resolved 
to notify the governor of South Carolina that he might expect an 
attempt would be made to provision the fort; and that, if the 
attempt should not be resisted, .there would be no effort to throw 
in men, arms, or ammunition, without further notice, or in case 
of an attack upon the fort. This notice was accordinglv given; 
whereupon the fort was attacked and bombarded to its fall 
without even awaiting the arrival of the provision expedition. 

It is thus seen that the assault upon and reduction of Fort Sum- 
ter was in no sense a matter of self-defense on the part of the 
assailants. They well knew that the garrison in the fort could by 
no possibility commit aggression upon them. They knew — they 
were expressly notified — that the giving of bread to the few brave 
and hungry men of the garrison was all which would on that occa- 
sion be attempted, unless themselves, by resisting so much, should 
provoke more. They knew that this government desired to keep 
the garrison in the fort, not to assail them, but merely to maintain 
visible possession, and thus to preserve the Union from actual 
and immediate dissolution — trusting, as hereinbefore stated, to 
time, discussion, and the ballot-box for final adjustment; and 
they assailed and reduced the fort for precisely the reverse object 
— to drive out the visible authority of the Federal Union, and thus 
force it to immediate dissolution. That this was their object the 
executive well understood; and having said to them in the in- 
augiu-al address, "You can have no conflict without being your- 
selves the aggressors," he took pains not only to keep this declara- 
tion good, but also to keep the case so free from the power of 
ingenious sophistry that the world should not be able to mis- 
understand it. By the affair at Fort Sumter, with its surrounding 
circumstances, that point was reached. Then and thereby the 
assailants of the government began the conflict of arms, without 
a gun in sight or in expectancy to return their fire, save only the 
few in the fort sent to that harbor years before for their own pro- 
tection, and still ready to give that protection in whatever was 
lawful. In this act, discarding all else, they have forced upon 
the country the distinct issue, "'immediate dissolution or blood.'' 

And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United 


States. It represents to the whole famJiy of man the question 
whether a constitutional republic or democracy — a government 
of the people by the same people — can or cannot maintain its 
territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents 
the question whether discontented individuals, too few in num- 
bers to control administration according to organic law in any 
case, can always, upon the pretenses made in this case, or on any 
other pretenses, or arbitrarily without any pretense, break up their 
government, and thus practically put an end to free government 
upon the earth. It forces us to ask: "Is there, in all republics, 
this inherent and fatal weakness?" "Must a government, of ne- 
cessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too 
weak to maintain its own existence ? " 

So viewing the issue, no choice was left h)ut to call out the war 
power of the government; and so to resist force employed for its 
destruction, by force for its preservation. 

The call was made, and the response of the country was most 
gratifying, surpassing in unanimity and spirit the most sanguine 
expectation. Yet none of the States commonly called slave 
States, except Delaware, gave a regiment through regular State 
organization. A few regiments have been organized within some 
others of those States by individual enterprise, and received into 
the government sen-ice. Of course the seceded States, so called 
(and to which Texas had been joined about the time of the in- 
auguration), gave no troops to the cause of the Union. The 
border States, so called, were not uniform in their action, some of 
them being almost for the Union, while in others — as Virginia, 
North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas — the Union sentiment 
was nearly repressed and silenced. The course taken in Vir- 
ginia was the most remarkable — perhaps the most important. 
A convention elected by the people of that State to consider this 
very question of disrupting the Federal Union was in session at 
the capital of Virginia when Fort Sumter fell. To this body the 
people had chosen a large majority of professed Union men. 
Almost immediately after the fall of Sumter, many members of 
that majority went over to the original disunion minority, and 
with them adopted an ordinance for withdrawing the State from 
the Union. Whether this change was wrought by their great 
approval of the assault upon Sumter, or their great resentment 
at the government's resistance to that assault, is not definitely 
known. Although they submitted the ordinance for ratification 


to a vote of the people, to be taken on a day then somewhat more 
than a month distant, the convention and the legislature (which 
was also in session at the same time and place), with leading men 
of the State not members of either, immediately commenced 
acting as if the State were already out of the Union. They 
pushed military preparations vigorously fonvard all over the 
State. They seized the United States armory at Harper's Ferry, 
and the navy-yard at Gosport, near Norfolk. They received — 
perhaps invited — into their State large bodies of troops, with their 
warlike appointments, from the so-called seceded States. They 
formally entered into a treaty of temporary alliance and co-opera- 
tion with the so-called "Confederate States," and sent members 
to their congress at Montgomery. And, finally, they permitted 
the insurrectionan,- government to be transferred to their capital 
at Richmond. 

The people of Virginia have thus allowed this giant insurrection 
to make its nest within her borders; and this government has no 
choice left but to deal with it where it finds it. And it has the less 
regret as the loyal citizens have, in due form, claimed its protec- 
tion. Those loyal citizens this government is bound to recognize 
and protect, as being Virginia. 

In the border States, so called, — in fact, the Middle States, — 
there are those who favor a pohcy which they call "armed neu- 
trality"; that is, an arming of those States to prevent the Union 
forces passing one way, or the disunion the other, over their soil. 
This would be disunion completed. Figuratively speaking, it 
would be the building of an impassable wall along the line of 
separation — and yet not quite an impassable one, for under the 
guise of neutrality it would tie the hands of Union men and freely 
pass supplies from among them to the insurrectionists, which it 
could not do to an open enemy. At a stroke it would take all 
the trouble oflf the hands of secession, except only what proceeds 
from the external blockade. It would do for the disunionists 
that which, of all things, they most desire — feed them well, and 
give them disunion without a struggle of their own. It recog- 
nizes no fidelity to the Constitution, no obligation to maintain 
the Union; and while very many who have favored it are doubt- 
less loyal citizens, it is, nevertheless, very injurious in effect. 

Recurring to the action of the government, it may be stated that 
at first a call was made for 75,000 militia; and, rapidly following 
this, a proclamation was issued for closing the ports of the insur- 

rectionary districts by proceedings in the nature of blockade. So 
far all was believed to be strictly legal. At this point the insur- 
rectionists announced their purj')ose to enter upon the practice of 

Other calls were made for volunteers to serve for three years 
unless sooner discharged, and also for large additions to the reg- 
ular army and navy. These measures, whether strictly legal or 
not, were ventured upon, under what appeared to be a popular 
demand and a public necessity; trusting then, as now, that Con- 
gress would readily ratify them. It is believed that nothing has 
been done beyond the constitutional competency of Congress. 

Soon after the first call for militia, it was considered a duty to 
authorize the commanding general in proper cases, according to 
his discretion, to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, 
or, in other words, to arrest and detain, without resort to the 
ordinary processes and forms of law, such individuals as he might 
deem dangerous to the public safety. This authority has pur- 
posely been exercised but very sparingly. Nevertheless, the 
legality and propriety of what has been done under it are ques- 
tioned, and the attention of the countr}' has been called to the 
proposition that one who has sworn to "'take care that the laws 
be faithfully executed" should not himself violate them. Of 
course some consideration was given to the questions of power 
and propriety before this matter was acted upon. The whole of 
the laws which were required to be faithfully executed were being 
resisted and failing of execution in nearly one-third of the States. 
Must they be allowed to finally fail of execution, even had it been 
perfectly clear that by the use of the means necessary to their execu- 
tion some single law, made in such extreme tenderness of the citi- 
zen's liberty that, practically, it relieves more of the guilty than of 
the innocent, should to a very limited extent be violated ? To state 
the question more directly, are all the laws but one to go unexe- 
cuted, and the government itself go to pieces lest that one be 
violated? Even in such a case, would not the oflacial oath be 
broken if the government should be overthrown, when it was be- 
lieved that disregarding the single law would tend to preserve 
it? But it was not believed that this question was presented. 
It was not believed that any law was violated. The provision 
of the Constitution that " the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus 
shall not be suspended, unless when, in cases of rebellion or in- 
vasion, the public safety may require it," is equi\alent to a provi- 



sion — is a provision — that such privilege may be suspended when, 
in case of rebeUion or invasion, the public safety does require it. 
It was decided that we have a case of rebellion, and that the pub- 
lic safety does require the qualified suspension of the privilege of 
the writ which was authorized to be made. Now it is insisted 
that Congress, and not the executive, is vested with this power. 
But the Constitution itself is silent as to which or who is to exer- 
cise the power; and as the provision was plainly made for a dan- 
gerous emergency, it cannot be believed the framers of the instru- 
ment intended that in every case the danger should run its course 
until Congress could be called together, the very assembling of 
which might be prevented, as was intended in this case, by the 

No more extended argument is now offered, as an opinion at 
some length will probably be presented by the attorney-general. 
Whether there shall be any legislation upon the subject, and if any, 
what, is submitted entirely to the better judgment of Congress. 

The forbearance of this government had been so extraordinary 
and so long continued as to lead some foreign nations to shape their 
action as if they supposed the early destruction of our National 
Union was probable. While this, on discovery, gave the execu- 
tive some concern, he is now happy to say that the sovereignty 
and rights of the United States are now everywhere practically 
respected by foreign powers; and a general sympathy with the 
country is manifested throughout the world. 

The reports of the Secretaries of the Treasury, War, and the 
Navy will give the information in detail deemed necessary and 
convenient for your deliberation and action; while the executive 
and all the departments will stand ready to supply omissions, 
or to communicate new facts considered important for you to know. 

It is now recommended that you give the legal means for making 
this contest a short and decisive one : that you place at the control 
of the government for the work at least four hundred thousand 
men and $400,000,000. That number of men is about one-tenth 
of those of proper ages within the regions where, apparently, all 
are willing to engage; and the sum is less than a twenty-third part 
of the money value owned by the men who seem ready to devote 
the whole. A debt of $600,000,000 now is a less sum per head 
than was the debt of oiu: Revolution when we came out of that 
struggle; and. the money value in the coimtry now bears even a 
greater proportion to what it was then than does the population. 

Surely each man has as strong a motive now to preserve our lilj- 
erties as each had then to establish them. 

A right result at this time will be worth more to the world than 
ten times the men and ten times the money. The evidence reach- 
ing us from the country leaves no doubt that the material for the 
work is abundant, and that it needs only the hand of legislation 
to give it legal sanction, and the hand of the executive to give it 
practical shape and efficiency. One of the greatest perplexities 
of the government is to avoid receiving troops faster than it can 
provide for them. In a word, the people will save their govern- 
ment if the government itself will do its part only indifferently 

It might seem, at first thought, to be of little difference whether 
the present movement at the South be called "secession" or 
"rebellion." The movers, however, well understand the differ- 
ence. At the beginning they knew they could never raise their 
treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies 
violation of law. They knew their people possessed as much 
of moral sense, as much of devotion to law and order, and as much 
pride in and reverence for the history and government of their 
common coimtry as any other civilized and patriotic people. They 
knew' they could make no advancement directly in the teeth of 
these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly, they com- 
menced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They 
invented an ingenious sophism which, if conceded, was followed 
by perfectly logical steps, through all the incidents, to the com- 
plete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is that any 
State of the Union may consistently with the National Consti- 
tution, and therefore lawfully and peacefully, withdraw from 
the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State. 
The little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only 
for just cause, themselves to be the sole judges of its justice, is 
too thin to merit any notice. 

With rebellion thus sugar-coated they have been drugging the 
public mind of their section for more than thirty years, and until 
at length they have brought man\- good men to a willingness to 
take up arms against the government the day after some assem- 
blage of men have enacted the farcical pretense of taking their 
State out of the Union, who could have been brought to no such 
thing the day before. 

This sophism derives much, perhaps the whole, of its currency 



from the assumption that there is some omnipotent and sacred 
supremacy pertaining to a State — to each State of oxir Federal 
Union. Our States have neither more nor less power than that 
reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution — no one of 
them ever having been a State out of the Union. The original 
ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British 
colonial dependence; and the new ones each came into the Union 
directly from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas. And 
even Texas, in its temporary independence, was never designated 
a State. The new ones only took the designation of States on 
coming into the Union, while that name was first adopted for the 
old ones in and by the Declaration of Independence. Therein 
the "United Colonies" were declared to be "free and independent 
States"; but even then the object plainly was not to declare 
their independence of one another or of the Union, but directly 
the contrary, as their mutual pledge and their mutual action 
before, at the time, and afterward, abundantly show. The 
express plighting of faith by each and all of the original thirteen 
in the Articles of Confederation, two years later, that the Union 
shall be perpetual, is most conclusive. Having never been States 
either in substance or in name outside of the Union, whence this 
magical omnipotence of "State Rights," asserting a claim of 
power to lawfully destroy the Union itself? Much is said about 
the "sovereignty" of the States; but the word even is not in the 
National Constitution, nor, as is believed, in any of the State 
constitutions. What is "sovereignty" in the political sense of 
the term? Would it be far wrong to define it " a political commu- 
nity without a political superior"? Tested by this, no one of our 
States except Texas ever was a sovereignty. And even Texas 
gave up the character on coming into the Union; by which act 
she acknowledged the Constitution of the United States, and the 
laws and treaties of the United States made in piu-suance of the 
Constitution, to be for her the supreme law of the land. The 
States have their status in the Union, and they have no other 
legal status. If they break from this, they can only do so against 
law and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves sepa- 
rately, procured their independence and their liberty. By con- 
quest or purchase the Union gave each of them whatever of inde- 
pendence or liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the 
States, and, in fact, it created them as States. Originally some 
dependent colonies made the Union, and, in turn, the Union 


threw off their old dependence for them, and made them States 
such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution 
independent of the Union. Of course, it is not forgotten that all 
the new States framed their constitutions before they entered the 
Union — nevertheless, dependent upon and preparatory to coming 
into the Union. 

Unquestionably the States have the powers and rights reserved 
to them in and by the National Constitution; but among these 
surely are not included all conceivable powers, however mischiev- 
ous or destructive, but, at most, such only as were known in the 
world at the time as governmental powers; and certainly a power 
to destroy the government itself had never been known as a gov- 
ernmental, as a merely administrative power. This relative 
matter of national power and State rights, as a principle, is no 
other than the principle of generality and locality. Whatever 
concerns the whole should be confided to the whole — to the 
General Government; while whatever concerns only the State 
should be left exclusively to the State. This is all there is of 
original principle about it. Whether the National Constitution 
in defining boundaries between the two has applied the principle 
with exact accuracy, is not to be questioned. We are all bound 
by that defining, without question. 

What is now combated is the position that secession is consistent 
with the Constitution — is lawful and peaceful. It is not contended 
that there is any express law for it; and nothing should ever be 
implied as law which leads to unjust or absurd consequences. 
The nation piu-chased with money the countries out of which 
several of these States were formed. Is it just that they shall go 
off without leave and without refunding? The nation paid very 
large sums (in the aggregate, I believe, nearly a hundred millions) 
to relieve Florida of the aboriginal tribes. Is it just that she 
shall now be off without consent or without making any return? 
The nation is now in debt for money applied to the benefit of 
these so-called seceding States in common with the rest. Is it 
just either that creditors shall go unpaid or the remaining States 
pay the whole? A part of the present national debt was con- 
tracted to pay the old debts of Texas. Is it just that she shall 
leave and pay no part of this herself? 

Again, if one State may secede, so may another; and when all 
shall have seceded, none is left to pay the debts. Is this quite 
just to creditors? Did we notify them of this sage view of ours 



when we borrowed their money? If we now recognize this doc- 
trine by allowing the seceders to go in peace, it is difficult to see 
what we can do if others choose to go or to extort terms upon 
which they will promise to remain. 

The seceders insist that our Constitution admits of secession. 
They have assumed to make a national constitution of their own, 
in which of necessity they have either discarded or retained the 
right of secession as they insist it exists in ours. If they have dis- 
carded it, they thereby admit that on principle it ought not to be 
in ours. If they have retained it by their own construction of 
ours, they show that to be consistent they must secede from one 
another whenever they shall find it the easiest way of settling 
their debts or effecting any other selfish or unjust object. The 
principle itself is one of disintegration, and upon which no gov- 
ernment can possibly endure. 

If all the States save one should assert the power to drive that 
one out of the Union, it is presumed the whole class of seceder 
politicians would at once deny the power and denounce the act 
as the greatest outrage upon State rights. But suppose that pre- 
cisely the same act, instead of being called "driving the one out," 
should be called "the seceding of the others from that one," it 
would be exactly what the seceders claim to do, unless, indeed, 
they make the point that the one, because it is a minority, may 
rightfully do what the others, because they are a majority, may 
not rightfully do. These politicians are subtle and profound on 
the rights of minorities. _ They are not partial to that power 
which made the Constitution and speaks from the preamble 
calling itself "We, the People." 

It may well be ciuestioned whether there is to-day a majority 
of the legally qualified voters of any State, except perhaps South 
Carolina, in favor of disunion. There is much reason to believe 
that the Union men are the majority in many, if not in every other 
one, of the so-called seceded States. The contrary has not been 
demonstrated in any one of them. It is ventured to affirm this 
even of Virginia and Tennessee; for the result of an election held 
in military camps, where the bayonets are all on one side of the 
question voted upon, can scarcely be considered as demonstrating 
popular sentiment. At such an election, all that large class who 
are at once for the Union and against coercion would be coerced 
to vote against the Union. 

It may be affirmed without extravagance that the free institu- 


tions we enjoy have de\eloped the powers and improved the con- 
dition of our whole people beyond any example in the world. 
Of this we now have a striking and an impressive illustration. 
So large an army as the go\'ernment has now on foot was never 
before known, without a soldier in it, but who has taken his place 
there of liis own free choice. But more than this, there are many 
single regiments whose members, one and another, possess full 
practical knowledge of all the arts, sciences, professions, and 
whatever else, whether useful or elegant, is known in the world; 
and there is scarcely one from which there could not be selected 
a President, a cabinet, a congress, and perhaps a court, abun- 
dantly competent to administer the government itself. Nor do I 
say this is not true also in the army of our late friends, now ad- 
versaries in this contest; but if it is, so much better the reason 
why the government \vhich has conferred such benefits on both 
them and us should not be broken up. Whoever in any section 
proposes to abandon such a government would do well to consider 
in deference to what principle it is that he does it — what better 
he is likely to get in its stead — whether the substitute will give, 
or be intended to give, so much of good to the people? There 
are some foreshadowings on this subject. Our adversaries have 
adopted some declarations of independence in which, unlike the 
good old one, penned by Jefferson, they omit the words "all men 
are created equal." Why? They have adopted a temporary 
national constitution, in the preamble of which, unlike our good 
old one, signed by Washington, they omit "We, the People," 
and substitute, "We, the deputies of the sovereign and inde- 
pendent States." Why? Why this deliberate pressing out of 
view the rights of men and the authority of the people? 

This is essentially a people's contest. On the side of the Union 
it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and sub- 
stance of government whose leading object is to elevate the con- 
dition of men — to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear 
the paths of laudable p;irsuit for all; to afford all an unfettered 
start, and a fair chance in the race of life. Yielding to partial 
and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading 
object of the government for whose existence we contend. 

I am most happy to believe that the plain people understand and 
appreciate this. It is worthy of note that while in this, the govern- 
ment's hour of trial, large numbers of those in the army and navy 
who have been favored with the offices have resigned and proved 



false to the hand which had pampered them, not one common 
soldier or common sailor is known to have deserted his flag. 

Great hcjnor is due to those officers who remained true, despite 
the example of their treacherous associates; but the greatest honor, 
and most important fact of all, is the unanimous firmness of the 
common soldiers and common sailors. To the last man, so far 
as known, they have successfully resisted the traitorous efforts 
of those whose commands, but an hour before, they obeyed as 
absolute law. This is the patriotic instinct of the plain people. 
They understand, without an argument, that the destroying of the 
government which was made by Washington means no good to 

Our popular government has often been called an experiment. 
Two points in it our people have already settled — the successful 
establishing and the successful administering of it. One still re- 
mains — its successful maintenance against a formidable internal 
attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to demonstrate to the 
world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress 
a rebellion; that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors 
of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally 
decided, there can be no successful appeal back to biillets; that 
there can be no successful appeal, except to ballots themselves, 
at succeeding elections. Such will be a great lesson of peace: 
teaching men that what they cannot take by an election, neither 
can they take it by a war; teaching all the folly of being the be- 
ginners of a war. 

Lest there be some uneasiness in the minds of candid men as to 
what is to be the coixrse of the government toward the Southern 
States after the rebellion shall have been suppressed, the executive 
deems it proper to say it will be his purpose then, as ever, to be 
guided by the Constitution and the laws; and that he probably 
will have no different understanding of the powers and duties of 
the Federal Government relatively to the rights of the States and 
the people, under the Constitution, than that expressed in the 
inaugural address. 

He desires to preserve the government, that it may be admin- 
istered for all as it was administered by the men who made it. 
Loyal citizens everywhere have the right to claim this of their 
government, and the government has no right to withhold or neg- 
lect it. It is not perceived that in giving it there is any coercion, 
any conquest, or any subjugation, in any just sense of those terms. 


The Conslitution provides, and all the States have accepted the 
provision, that " the United States shall guarantee to every State in 
this Union a re])ublican form of government. But if a State may 
lawfully go out of the Union, having done so, it may also discard 
the republican form of government; so that to prevent its going 
out is an indispensable means to the end of maintaining the guar- 
antee mentioned; and when an end is lawful and obligatory, the 
indispensable means to it are also lawful and obligatory. 

It was with the deepest regret that the executive found the duty 
of employing the war power in defense of the government forced 
upon him. He could but perform this duty or surrender the ex- 
istence of the government. No compromise by public servants 
could, in this case, be a cure; not that compromises are not often 
proper, but that no popular government can long survive a marked 
precedent that those who carry an election can only save the 
government from immediate destruction by giving up the main 
point upon which the people gave the election. The people 
themselves, and not their servants, can safely reverse their own 
deliberate decisions. 

As a private citizen the executive could not have consented that 
these institutions shall perish ; much less could he, in betrayal of so 
vast and so sacred a trust as the free people have confided to him. 
He felt that he had no moral right to shrink, nor even to count the 
chances of his own life in what might follow. In full view of his 
great responsibility he has, so far, done what he has deemed his 
duty. You will now, according to your own judgment, perform 
yours. He sincerely hopes that your views and your actions may 
so accord with his as to assure all faithful citizens who have been 
disturbed in their rights of a certain and speedy restoration to 
them, under the Constitution and the laws. 

And having thus chosen our course, without guile and with pure 
purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear 
and with manly hearts. Abraham Lincoln. 

July 4, 1861. 

The closing words of Lincoln's first inaugural address, March 4, 1861, are well remem- 
bered: " In yoiu: hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momen- 
tous issue of civU war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict 
without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy 
the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to 'preserve, protect, and defend' 
it. I am loth to dose. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though 
passion may have strained, it must not break, our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of 
memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearth- 



stone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when aeain touched 
as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature " ^ toucned, 

Both of Lincoln's inaugural addresses (1861 and 1865), together with the nroclamation 
rlffW v'P^i'"- ""^"^ 'he speech at Gettysburg, are reprinted in Old ^ouV Leaflet No 11 
Leaflet No. 85 is devoted to the ftrst Lincoln and Douglas debate; and in Leaflc No 107 L' 
given Lmcoln's famous address at the Cooper Institute, New York, in i860 In these latte^ 

Zu^tl'^^f ''?• ^'^ ^^^'^l i'^'^ ^'' ^''''''^^ ^P°^ 'he anti-slavery issue as it affected the 
political situa ion with which as President he had to deal. He entered UDon the Pr^inln^, 
when the work of the disruption of the Union was already ffr advancedTand in hifi^u/ 
uln' F^rf 'T ""'"''r^ '^^ ^"f "°,'^ °f '^"^ constitutional relation of "he StatS t^A^e 
Union Fort Sum cr was fired upon April 12, 1861. On April 15 President Lincoln i^ued 

I '^ ntme r^.'^i'r' ^°'' "'f^? I"'-"''"' ^"'^^ convening Co'ngresf in extra session on JvU? 
to- the orTb ems of ^h^^cTl ^'^^at time, reprinted in the present leaflet, was devoted entkely 
fnr hf^fc. • ll^^i ^^'"■' l''\° 'T^hich the country was alreadv plunged, including a 
further discussion of the relation of the States to the Nation under the Constitution It k 

P incides'Tnvd veH fn J." r^^ \f ":'^"' ■'^'t''T ""l P^^^'^ent Lincoln of the Sues and 
nech'on fy, ?TnIln'cV'' ?T''a1)", ^' ''I- °f^'^i}--- J^^ ^'^^ent is advised to read in con- 
to ConCs^ Den % Ts^'r^''''''.' '"^''a'^ ^J ^"°'^y ^°^ ^^^' Lincoln's annual message 
AnrilTi irA. ni fi,^'^ • J"i; ^^l' ''"I'' °"'" "messages; also his last public addre4, 
Mon s;e NfrnM,; ^ni'w ^ j'^H ^^ touches upon certain principles involved in reconstruc- 

of°?he cl^nCby^Rh^'ody anK^^^^ ^°' '''' ""'''''' ''^^^^^^^'^^^ ^'^ '""^ 1^'^'°"- 



Old South Meeting-house, Boston, Mass. 


7/. J^00 9. OS^ O^tiSZy